How to write a formal email
You may have never written a formal email as a student, but as an (aspiring) international student you will most likely have to write one. Here’s how it differs from an informal email.
Knowing how to write a formal email is a great skill to have in life; not only will it help you create a good impression, it just might also be the thing that sets you apart. Best yet, it is not as difficult as people believe it to be. Just approach it like writing an essay with an introduction, beginning and end and some technical tweaks along the way and you are ready to go.
First Impressions: The Subject Line
The subject line is your first point of contact and will create the first impression. Use this space to state the purpose of your email in a concise manner. The recipient should be able to tell what the email is about through just the subject line.
If you are writing to a lecturer, include your student number for easy reference. Similarly, include your account or reference number if you are writing to a business where you have an account. Lastly, do not use all capitals in the subject line and avoid using unnecessary words.
Always start your formal email with greeting the person to whom you are writing. If you know who the recipient of the email will be, start your letter with ‘Dear’ followed by the recipient’s’ title and surname. If you are unsure who the recipient is, start with: To whom it may concern.
Avoid starting a formal email with Hello, Hi, Morning etc. Ensure that you spell the recipient’s name correctly.
Introduction and Body
Plan the content of your email carefully and decide what is the most important information to convey. After determining this, use the first paragraph to introduce yourself and expand on the subject line - the reason for your email. Use the body of the email to include extra information but ensure not to provide unnecessary details. You are more likely to receive a quick and positive response if the recipient does not need to read through a long email trying to decipher why you have written to them. You will also lose the reader’s interest if the email is too long.
If you need to include account details in your email, ensure that they are clearly displayed and does not need to be searched for within the text.
While composing your email, do not use abbreviations or slang. This is unprofessional and can leave a negative impression. Lastly, use just one language in the email and use a language that you know the recipient will be able to understand.
Finalising The Letter
End your email on a friendly, yet formal note. Popular ways to end a formal email is by using ‘Yours faithfully,’ (if you know the recipient) or ‘Yours sincerely’ (if you do not know the name of the recipient).
Now add your name and surname. Follow this with your contact details such as telephone number and email address so that the recipient knows where to contact you if the need arises.
Before You Hit Send
The last but possibly most important step before sending your email is to proofread it. Read carefully through the letter and look for spelling and grammatical errors. Use your computer’s grammar checker to ensure that all the nitty gritty details are correct or use an online grammar checker such as Ginger or Grammarly. These will also assist with correcting your spelling and sentence constructions depending on the tool you are using.
Ask someone you trust to also read through the email to ensure that it flows correctly, makes sense, the tone is correct and that the correct message is being conveyed. A second opinion can make a big difference.
You are now set to write a formal email! Remember that practice makes perfect and if you are unsure about something, ask.
For more helpful advice related to studying abroad, check out our blogs.
About the Author: Lizan Gray, an adventurer at heart, is originally from South Africa and currently a copywriter in Dubai. She is busy finishing her degree in Business Administration.